Sports training programs for young athletes demand different equipment, a different mindset, and more in-depth information than those for adults. In the United States, there is a steady rise in demand for programs instructing young people in sports skills, particularly those that aid in developing motor skills and natural athletic talents. Numerous performance facilities and fitness centers provide programs for children aged 7 to 16, focusing on speed and agility training for young athletes who play basketball, baseball, football, and other team sports.
Sports training programs for youth might be advantageous regarding movement skill development, weight management, and general fitness due to kids’ lack of recreational exercise and the alarming trend of early specialization in sports, among other factors. However, if proper guidelines and specialized approaches are disregarded in the heat of a profitable moment, the quality of the services and the child’s interest are jeopardized. It is a known truth that developing sports training programs for young athletes calls for different knowledge, approaches, and equipment than developing programs for adults.
In light of this, the following eight ideas have to comprise the foundation of any effective adolescent sports training program:
1. Young adults Are Not Children
Coaches frequently lack the necessary knowledge of the physiology of children’s and youth exercise and face pressure to win every game. Too many of them create training plans based on the objectives and capacities of adults. The drills themselves, as well as their length and intensity, frequently match an adult athlete’s training session.
I occasionally observe a 10- to 12-year-old football team practicing in the field near my house. I started to wonder what the point of the practice was as I saw the team running sprints in high gear in the heat, going lap after lap, then collapsing to the ground. The development of the metabolism and perhaps mental toughness are the objectives, in my opinion. However, it is unclear whether the aim of this training will translate to success on the gridiron due to the young body’s inability to respond to the offered training modality. In other words, even if those young athletes improve physically and emotionally due to the practice, it’s unlikely that their poor running technique and uncoordinated movements under stress will benefit them when they play the sport. The same exercise might help athletes who can use their advanced motor abilities and profit physiologically, but not their younger competitors. This example only illustrates one circumstance in one sport, but it can be observed in some capacity across all child sports.
2. Players Second, Athletes First
Because game-specific talents ultimately determine which team wins and which loses, coaches are frequently tempted to emphasize teaching and practicing these skills above general athletic ones. This overemphasized emphasis on developing sport-specific skills can also be attributed to a lack of training time and people’s high expectations of success. Developing fundamental athletic abilities, such as hopping, lunging, twisting, and landing, lays the groundwork for game-specific skills and is essential for becoming a successful and healthy player. Before the athletic foundation has been established, limiting the variety of movement skills might jeopardize a child’s long-term growth and stifle his or her full potential.
Early-onset injuries, especially overuse injuries, are frequently a result of overtraining for a particular sport at the expense of general fitness and motor skills. The secret to developing a successful, kid-focused sports program is understanding how to integrate the elements of athletic development into the training program. It is important to remember that athletes utilize these techniques throughout their careers to enhance their performance in particular games and avoid injuries.
3. A Consideration of Age
Human movement and athletic performance require coordination, balance, speed, flexibility, agility, strength, and endurance, among other things. Which motor skills should be stressed in training programs depend on the various stages of a child’s growth and development. For instance, the “skill-hungry” years of 8 to 12 are when speed and agility improve, and later years see the importance of strength and endurance. A 10-year-old youngster is at his best while playing games like tag or quick shuttle runs to improve his acceleration speed and direction change. Children between the ages of 8 and 12 may quickly grasp drills that include multiple directions of hops on a single leg.
On the other hand, as the body adjusts to significant increases in height and muscular mass during puberty, some fine motor skills regress. Therefore, understanding fundamental movement patterns and workouts for dynamic flexibility and foundational strength should be a top priority during this painful period. Exercises that combine strength, flexibility, and coordination goals, such as lunging or single-leg squat variations in both planes, help the body maintain and improve athleticism even throughout the more awkward stages of physical maturation.
Children’s strengths, not faults, should be the main emphasis of the developmental periods before and during puberty. The time for young people to hone their athletic abilities will come later, during the high school years, when they can add all movement training areas into the curriculum. Strength and endurance qualities are better absorbed now than earlier, and flexibility becomes much more crucial.
Additionally, it’s critical to understand that everyone develops at a different rate. The physiological requirements of potentially excellent athletes are often neglected in the aggressive quest to “peak” in high school sports and even earlier. Many internationally renowned athletes discovered their chosen sport in college or even later.
4. Fun Is Required
In youth sports, the value of enjoyment is frequently overlooked or misinterpreted. The idea that only hard effort can produce results is pervasive in this nation, even when raising kids and encouraging physical activity. Sometimes people’s notion of what is entertaining is confined to believing that jokes are told in between drills or that everyone is constantly laughing hysterically. People frequently try to separate fun from activities meant to produce results because they find linking the two in their thinking difficult. What exactly is “fun,” and can it be a crucial component of performance improvement?
It’s incredible how much more effectively one learns when having fun. A significant component of multidimensional human systems is emotion. Physical performance and the response brought on by physical exertion are closely related to emotions. Fun is crucial because enjoyment motivates or inspires learning on both a cognitive and physiological level.
Fun can be characterized as a well-balanced mix of ability and difficulty. If the task is complex enough yet also gratifying, it might result in a pleasant, enjoyable experience. Laughter is a common way to communicate fun but may also be expressed as a profound sense of inner fulfillment. How can you tell if the program you’re using is enjoyable? Are the kids returning week after week and month after month for more? The only thing that will keep them returning to practice is fun.
Assess your program based on the number of kids who enroll and complete it. Observe how many participants return and recommend upcoming sessions to others.
5. Long-Term Growth, Not Instant Success
Are you sure your coaching style will benefit the athletes in their post-high school and post-college careers? Does your coaching style for young athletes change based on when they are expected to peak? Are your coaching and training techniques vital to the gradual transition to athletic maturity? In that case, why?
Coaches may not always be aware of the potential impact their training program choices have on the players’ ability to compete at their best. Youth coaches frequently view an athlete’s early career success as the best indicator of their efforts. Recognizing that a coach’s decisions now might affect an athlete’s long-term prospects and assessing training strategies in light of post-high school and possibly post-college years present fundamental ethical and professional challenges.
When selecting training methods for young athletes, a youth coach should constantly consider their long-term career, which occasionally may entail sacrificing short-term success. Are you prepared to act in the child’s best interests, or is it more critical for you to succeed today at the expense of tomorrow? It is possible to excel as a child and master athlete, which is the ideal condition. Premature specialization, intense training, or too many competitions pose the most significant risks to long-term development. A young athlete’s growth might also be hampered by a lack of fundamental athletic abilities or by training too hard.
6. Security and effectiveness
A safe environment is necessary for learning, success, and enjoyment, and everyone claims that they put safety first in their kid activities. While accepting that accident can occur even when risk management is adequately handled, well-structured, well-taught programs guarantee a program’s physical safety.
Beyond that, social and emotional safety are as crucial to the success of a program; in an environment where there is freedom within limits and discipline through compassion, mental safety flourishes. A “lead by example” approach and clear rules and instructions help to foster a productive mental environment. The rules must be clear to children, who must see that their teachers take them seriously. Mutual respect and following the regulations vanish if a coach instructs players to appreciate their teammates before mocking one particular player. More than any other demographic, young people expect a lot from their coaches regarding maturity and character.
Each youngster requires opportunities to express themselves without experiencing negative peer pressure, and the coach is also in charge of ensuring the group’s social safety. Bullying has no place in a team or program for kids that succeed. The squad cannot enable the little “tough guys” to come up and assume leadership. The coach is responsible for laying out the rules and enforcing them.
7. Try Your Best
How is a new skill taught? Can you perform a drill or workout with the same attitude and proficiency that you expect of your athletes? With kids, it’s best to demonstrate and teach what you can already perform. The demonstration will determine how the drill is carried out, regardless of how thoroughly you describe the training. Although it’s a strenuous activity, coaches should always be ready to demonstrate the exercise as well as they can.
Give specific signals, such as “lift knees higher” or “hold it for the count of three,” while focusing on one emphasis area at a time. Always begin corrective comments with a compliment and look out for performance strengths to spur growth in those areas: “Alex, excellent footwork on the shuffle – show me if you can keep the toes pointing forward on the next round.”
Short attention spans are typical of new learning. By giving the same activity repeatedly while slightly altering it each time, you can get beyond this possible roadblock in teaching. One-leg passing drills, tag games, and timed balance tests are a few ways to practice single-leg balance. It is now time to put the fundamental movement skill into practice in the more unpredictable environment of a game. The game will demonstrate whether you learned the talent and whether you can anticipate its application in a sporting environment.
8. Keep Things Basic
Rarely enough time in a practice session to cover everything from athletic development to sport-specific skills. Simple homework assignments are an excellent idea if practice occurs one to three times each week. Short bursts of solo exercise will gradually increase and produce results over time. The homework teaches responsibility and the value of regular exercise.
Making an opening and warm-up procedure is a terrific approach to ensure that training sessions begin the same way and that kids can eventually complete them independently. A series of exercises performed in a logical sequence will prepare the body for practice, turn on the mind, and prepare it to respond and take in. If you decide to assign homework, allow time during training to evaluate the student’s progress and reward those who put in the most significant effort at home.
Unscheduled recreational play is the most crucial period for motor skill development and ensuring a future of athleticism and nutritional health. Sports coaches for young people must acknowledge that playing with friends may be more helpful to kids than any planned activity, including the athletic practice they direct. Young people passionate about sports should be working to keep the tradition of free play alive. It is the most significant muscular reserve found in nature and the best assignment help available.
Tips for Running Youth Sports Training Programs
• Develop strong program core values. A strong foundation of principles and values is essential for any children’s program to be effective. Everyone connected to the program must be able to articulate its main goals and ideals. The program variables are built upon values or a mission statement. The initiative has legitimacy thanks to its ethical base, which will also increase its durability.
• Inform the general public and parents. An effective youth program must also provide participants with education. On the flier or poster, every youth sports program appears the same. However, the actual offerings differ significantly. If parents use marketing materials, how can they help their children make informed decisions? Administrators and coaches must set up meetings with parents so that they can impart vital information that will help their kids. Demonstrations and workshops for teachers and other coaches are additional efficient methods of information exchange. The transfer of learning into teaching will be most effective in real-world, hands-on circumstances.
• Pick professors who are excellent role models. Why do we assume that somebody with a clean past can instruct children? Does that represent our value for our children’s future or our ignorance? Coaching and educating young people is a task that should be taken very seriously since it has a much more significant impact than teaching adults. Coaching children doesn’t require a Ph.D.; instead, it requires a sincere concern for kids and a willingness to learn more about training, instructing, and coaching young people. Who can forget the coach or physical education teacher from elementary school whose influence has remained in our lives? Every youth coach serves as a role model; hopefully, they are conscious of this.
• Consider the goal in addition to the result. We must recognize that our goal is to enhance children’s quality of life and foster a lifelong passion for physical exercise. We play a critical role in assisting kids in acquiring the skills and tools—physical, mental, and social—that will enable them to succeed in the future. Children learn best by doing and moving, not simply sitting and thinking, and the athletic field serves as their classroom for life lessons. Sports involve a range of emotions, including happiness and satisfaction, as well as disappointment and frustration. Youth coaches are most suited to mentor young people through their words of support and advice, but even more so through their actions. Whether athletic or not, all kids can benefit from physical activity; our role is to help them maintain it over time. It may be the Olympics for some. Others mean continuing to be happy and healthy.
Visit www.discovermovement.com to learn more about youth fitness and conditioning.
Author: Tommi Paavola (first published in Athletic Business magazine in November 2006)
In the United States, Tommi Paavola, M.S., C.S.C.S., directs Youth Fitness and Conditioning Programs and creates methods for athletic growth. A website with additional details.